Welcome back to Race Recap Flashback week! I have already recapped my Run for the ROC at the Publix Georgia Half Marathon, which you can read here, and the Komen Atlanta Race for the Cure, which you can read here. Tonight, I’m wrapping up this short series with my recap of the Peachtree Road Race earlier this month!
When I first started to get an inkling in my brain that maybe I wanted to give this running thing a shot, I knew that I had to run The Peachtree. I mean, you aren’t truly an Atlantan, let alone an Atlanta Runner, until you’ve run those six sweaty miles down the center of our fine city. For those who aren’t familiar, the Peachtree isn’t just a local 10k. It isn’t even just a big holiday 10k (it takes place every 4th of July). It is the world’s largest 10k. It is MASSIVE. And it is the one holiday event across the entire calendar that Atlantans truly rally around. The whole city is buzzing about it for weeks in advance. So yeah, before I even knew what a race bucket list was, this race was on my race bucket list. I also wasted no time crossing it off my race bucket list – just two months after I finished my first “running” 5k at the 2010 Race for the Cure (I had walked others), I ran the Peachtree. And I’ve run it every year since and I plan to continue to build my streak for as long as geography and our finances allow.
The 2013 Peachtree was our fourth straight Peachtree, and this one was a little special – my brother-in-law Matt (Mike’s brother) came down from New York to run it with us ahead of his birthday and a weeklong art course at SCAD. So even though the Peachtree is getting to be old hat for Mike and I, this year, we got to experience through the eyes of a newbie once again.
[Sidenote: Have I mentioned that my BIL is a crazy talented artist? Because he is. Click on over to his Facebook page and look at some of his work. It is truly phenomenal!]
I also decided that for the first time, I wanted to incorporate a fundraising component to my Peachtree efforts. I thought about using Crowdrise to support one of the “official” Peachtree charities, but none of them really clicked with me. So when I was putting together my goals for 2013, I decided that I would use the Breast Cancer Research Foundation‘s Time for Research model to raise money for something very close to my heart – breast cancer research. I posted about my fundraiser in mid-June and called it, fittingly enough, the #Run4Research.
From there, it was time to train (which I did a lot of!) and it was time to spread the word about my fundraiser (which I didn’t do enough of, it turns out). And then, it was suddenly time for the race…
As savvy veterans of the Peachtree, Mike and I chose to have our race bibs mailed to us. It might cost a little extra, but it’s worth it to avoid the crowds at the Expo. Plus, you get that fun surprise in the mail in mid-June when you find out your official start wave. In the past, I’ve still wound up at the Expo because I usually volunteer there with the Atlanta Track Club. However, because the 4th fell on a Thursday this year, the Expo was on Tuesday and Wednesday – both work days for this girl. So that meant no volunteering this year. All in all, I was pretty resigned to not making it down to the Expo…
… and then my BIL decided to come run with us and my good friend Julie generously leant him her number (she has been dealing with a heinous case of plantar fasciitis and was saving her feet for the Boston 3 Day at the end of the month). However, Julie chose not to have her number mailed to her which meant that after work on Tuesday, I still found myself fighting traffic to get to the Peachtree Expo. As it turned out, it was fortuitous that I had to go down there because we also needed MARTA cards to get to the race start. And Nuun. And I picked up a new tank top on clearance from Big Peach. And I splurged on my first ever Sparkly Soul headbands. Among other things. Like I said in my #Run4ROC recap post, I should NOT be left unattended at race expos. After about an hour of wandering around in my high heels from work, I headed back home to finish cleaning before my BIL got there the next afternoon.
The night before the race was COMPLETELY different than the night before the Publix Georgia Half. Before that race, I was a nervous wreck. But this time, I was confident. I knew I was well trained, I know the course very well at this point, and I’d been running great all year. Our only real concern was the forecast – all of the weather folks were forecasting not just rain, but torrential downpours right at starting time. So, just like everyone else in the city, we were a little worried, although more about the race getting canceled than getting rained on. But, not being capable of controlling the weather, we instead set out our stuff for the next morning, peppered Matt with all of our best tips for the race, and headed to bed at a relatively early hour.
Well, actually, first we had to get to the race. We stepped out the door to begin the 1.5 mile trek to the nearest MARTA station around 6am and were not terribly surprised to find it sprinkling. So staying dry for the race lasted about three minutes. Oh well. We took our short cut through the post-race area in Piedmont Park which we WERE surprised to find we had to show our race bibs to enter. The ATC had notified all of the runners that they were increasing the security presence around the race following the events at the Boston Marathon and they were not kidding. The entire finish line area was absolutely lined with uniformed policemen, which honestly, was sort of comforting to see. We took our annual pre-race peak at the finish line itself, then zipped across Peachtree to the MARTA station.
Usually at this point in the morning, we end up standing in a hot, sweaty MARTA station waiting for a jam packed train to come by for about 45 minutes. But, someone was looking out for us this year. Just as we walked onto the platform, a completely empty train pulled up and we were able to walk right on. I mean, I got a seat on the train. A real, whole seat. That NEVER happens on Peachtree day. So up we went to Buckhead where we deboarded into the flood of racers. Security again was noticeably tight. They were letting people out of the stations in waves in order to control the crowd and keep an eye out for anything suspicious. We’ve never seen them do that before.
Soon enough, though, we made it to our start wave. Because Matt was using Julie’s number, we ended up starting back with him in Wave P. The later start afforded us plenty of time to stretch, go to the portapotties, snack on some Clif Bars we brought, and just generally take in the scene. We were a little concerned that with the weather, a lot of people had decided to stay home, especially when we were able to get on a train so easily. That fear was completely unfounded. The portapotty lines and the crowds in the corrals were just as huge as always. Plus, the rain had basically stopped by the time the later waves were approaching the start. Before we knew it, we were passing underneath the huge flag marking the starting line and were on our way.
The boys both took off pretty quickly once we got across the start, which I expected. Mike is MUCH faster than I am, and Matt wanted to try to run with him for as long as he could hold on. Thinking ahead to the big hills in miles 4 and 5, I chose to start a bit conservatively and just enjoy the easy downhills of the early parts of the course. I also was doing something I don’t do often during races – I was running entirely based on effort, rather than a pace tracker. Because of the rain, I didn’t want to chance it with headphones, so I left my phone (and with it my RunKeeper app) off. I just settled into a comfortably hard pace that I thought I could hold and moved along through the first part of the race. I waved at the giant red tube dude that’s always in the middle of Peachtree early on, yelled out a greeting to Newbie, the New Balance mascot in front of their store, dodged the flying freebies from Moe’s (t-shirts and frisbees, not burritos, I promise!), and just generally enjoyed the kookiness of the Peachtree spectators. Like I said, Atlanta always rallies around the Peachtree, and even with the rain, this year was no exception.
Going into this race, I had some pretty big time goals. After clocking progressively slower times the last three years, I REALLY wanted a Peachtree PR (that would’ve been sub-1:06). As this is my only planned 10k for this year, I also knew that if I wanted to reach my goal of setting a new 10k PR this year, this was the race where I would have to do it (that would’ve been sub-1:05). And the one big thing standing between me and those goals was Heartbreak Hill. Heartbreak Hill is a sneaky beast of a hill. For the first three miles or so of this race, you’re cruising mostly downhill. Then, just before you reach the Shepard Center, you come upon a blind curve. And around that curve is Heartattack Hill. It comes out of nowhere, you’re usually tired because you went out too hard on the early miles, and, just when you think you’re at the top of it, there’s a second peak just beyond it. It’s a mental challenge, to be sure. I’ve never made it up it without walking… until this year. I made it all the way to the top of not just that first peak, but the second peak as well. I made myself hold onto until I reached the next water stop before I gave my legs a short breather while I hydrated.
From there, the race covers a series of rolling hills that basically don’t stop until you reach the finish line back at Piedmont Park. My legs were really tired by this point, but I felt like I was having a strong race and that I was probably within reach of my time goals, provided I didn’t let myself wuss out over the last two miles or so. Once I spotted the sign for 17th Street, I knew I was getting close. The race turns off of Peachtree and towards the finish on 10th. I started counting the cross streets, willing my legs to keep going. I also kept reminding myself that this part of the course was more of my home turf – just like I did during the half. As I pushed down 10th Street, I could just barely make out the numbers on the clock, which read something like 2:11 and some odd seconds. I distracted myself with some quick math based on the clock at the start and suddenly I knew: I was WELL ahead of my PR pace. Once last kick to the end and it was locked in. A new, HUGE 10k PR of 1:01:02!!
After the race, I did what I always do after the Peachtree. I grabbed a not-at-all cold bottle of water from a volunteer (hey, you try icing down 70,000 bottles of water all at once!), and headed for those coveted t-shirts. However, it became quickly apparent that this trip across Piedmont Park was a little different from in past years. You see, while we had all forgotten about the rain during the race, the ground at the park had not. And after 60,000+ people had tromped across the same swatch of grass in the span of just over two hours, it had become one giant mud pit. It was ridiculous. It was also a good thing I had already decided to replace my running shoes post-Peachtree, because there was no way they were surviving all of that mud!
Because of all of the mud, we didn’t really stick around too long after I met up with Matt and Mike. They gave me a quick run down of their races (Mike had finished in a speedy 50:46 despite a nagging injury that would sideline him for over three weeks post-race while Matt finished in 53:37 despite relatively little training) and then we decided to start making our way out of the part. We made a quick stop at the ATC Member’s tent to pick up our finisher’s gifts (aluminum water bottles with the shiny new logo!) and then walked up the Beltline to the post-race party at Phidippides. I don’t even think we really grabbed food at the park this year. We just wanted to get out of the mud and get to the party, especially since the rain was starting to make a reappearance.
The Phidippides party was great fun, as always. Hundreds of sweaty runners (who were also all caked in mud), free food and beer, good music… what’s not to like? I even won a giftcard to the Hard Rock Cafe! Which, honestly, I forgot we even had one of those here in Atlanta. But hey! More free food. Plus, I got to geek out when I spotted Jeff Galloway (Olympian/winner of the first Peachtree/founder of Phidippides) giving a tour of the store and catching up with Bart Yasso (the “Chief Running Officer” of Runner’s World Magazine). All in all, a great way to finish the Peachtree and start our 4th of July celebrating!
Yeah, about that fundraiser. When I posted about my #Run4Research in June, I had every intention of pushing this fundraiser to make it just as much of a success as my #Run4ROC fundraiser in March. But life just got in the way of this one. Not to make excuses, but about a week after I launched this fundraiser, I developed a severely infected tooth that required a root canal a week before the race. I was in a ton of pain and I wasn’t really in the mood to cheerlead my fundraiser. The donations were also slower to come in than in the past, which was discouraging. Altogether, I kind of lost my juice for this fundraiser, something that I really disappointed in myself for. I will be writing an additional, more detailed, post about what I think went wrong and the lessons I learned next week. I also have every intention of making my last fundraiser of 2013 even bigger to make up for my woeful effort on this one. But as far as this fundraiser is concerned, I dropped the ball.
BUT! That is not to say that I didn’t have any donations at all. In fact, four donations were made to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation via my fundraising page, which together with my starter donation brought the total raised to $155 – about 15% of my overall goal! Each of those donations lifted my spirits immensely and I’m sure will be used by BCRF in the future as they continue to wage the war against breast cancer. So thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to the following people for making donations to this fundraiser:
- Andy Carr, an ATC staff member that I got to know while volunteering at packet pick-up for the Women’s 5k and who’s become one of my Twitter buddies.
- Crystal Elster, one of my #3DayTweeps friends who’s father has run the Peachtree (FAST) every year for something like 35 years. After four years of trying to catch up with her at the race, we finally saw each other at the Phidippides post-race party this year!
- Katie, Jesse, and Alice Schank, some of our closest Atlanta friends and their adorable daughter. The Schanks are moving back to Georgia at the end of this year, so maybe we can run this together next year!
- And lastly, Laura Scholz and her husband Tim Long, who ALSO donated to my #Run4ROC. They’re good peeps, truly.
All in all, this race was a huge success for me, running-wise. I had a great race from top to bottom and truly felt like a veteran racer the whole way. However, I would’ve loved to have capped that victory off with a fundraising success as well. I have no one to blame but myself for that and I intend to do better next time. This was a good reminder that to be a successful charity runner, you need to put the effort into both parts: the running AND the fundraising!
Note: If you would like to see all of my pictures from the Peachtree Road Race 10k and the surrounding events, please click here. Also, the link to donate to BCRF is still active and will remain so until I choose to take it down. If you would like to make a donation to this great cause, please either click here or on the big clock up in the left hand corner of this page.